When you’re an independent candidate in Georgia, running ain’t easy.
So learned Gainesville resident Eugene Moon when he set his sights on the U.S. House of Representatives.
Not able to find an ideological home in either of the country’s main political parties, Moon decided about 18 months ago to take his conservative, constitutionalist ideas to the nation’s Capitol.
“My group, we just don’t feel like either party represents who we are anymore and the direction we want to go in,” said Moon, a marketing manager at a local manufacturing company.
But getting his name out there is much more difficult without a “D” or an “R” at its side. To even have his name printed on the ballot, Georgia law requires that Moon have 5 percent of the eligible registered voters in the congressional district sign a petition in his favor — a step to election not demanded of Republican or Democratic candidates, according to Matt Carrothers, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office. In the 9th District, where Moon is a candidate, there are nearly 394,000 active registered voters, meaning Moon has to secure approximately 20,000 signatures.
“The whole system is designed for failure from the get-go,” said Moon.
So far, Moon has some 3,800 signatures, he said.
“We’re standing on street corners. We’re going door-to-door,” Moon said. “I have a team of people that have volunteered to help me do this, and it’s all volunteer work.”
But Moon’s also getting a little help from his friends — or, in the case of the 9th District congressional race, his foe.
State Rep. Bobby Reese, R-Sugar Hill, has authored legislation that will lower the number of signatures required for independent candidates to access Georgia’s ballots to 5,000. Reese will testify for the bill in committee hearings early next week, although he’s aware it might help his opponent in the 9th District race.
In fact, Reese said he wrote the bill after talking with Moon about his struggle to meet the signature requirement.
“It’s really about just doing the right thing,” Reese said. “... We’ve got some of the most restrictive ballot access laws in this country, and that’s a shame.”
Reese said he’s even had Democrats come to him seeking to sign onto the bill. On Thursday, only Reese and Lafayette Rep. Jay Neal’s name were attached to it.
The issue surrounding independent candidates like Moon seems to be on the minds of other legislators, too.
Another bill in the House, authored by Rep. Alan Powell, D-Hartwell, calls for a complete elimination of the state’s petition requirement for independent candidates. Three other representatives have signed on to Powell’s bill, though it’s not been read on the floor.
But Moon is having friends call their legislators in support of House Bill 1141.
And while Reese said he would have loved to have written a bill similar to Powell’s, he said he thinks the one he wrote is more likely to pass.
“I asked legislative counsel what other states were doing, and the reality ... is this: Zero signatures is the perfect way. But in the real life ... you eat an elephant one spoonful or one forkful at a time,” Reese said. “... I thought it would be more acceptable to some to ease it up on them.”
“... If you want to get something passed you’ve got to be realistic or you can take this grandstand and get a little press and nothing happen,” Reese said. “I tend to want to be effective versus just grandstanding. Some people just go down there and grandstand, and that’s all they do and they never get anything accomplished.”